SpotitEarly uses dogs to detect cancer early with its mail-in screening test

The company uses labs in the lab to sniff out cancer and give patients a chance.

 Dog illustrative (photo credit: FLICKR)
Dog illustrative
(photo credit: FLICKR)

Drawing on the combined power of AI and man’s best friend, Israeli med-tech start-up SpotItEarly has developed a simple breath test for the early detection of a variety of cancers that utilizes the advanced olfactory abilities of dogs. The company has exited stealth after raising $6.2 million in seed funding, and is now on its way to completing clinical research and further product development.

The technology is based on dogs’ profound ability to smell what SpotItEarly refers to as the “cancer odor.” Each type of cancer has a unique odor, and most also have a common denominator. Dogs can detect these odors in a fraction of a second, and their sensitivity to the scents has been proven in several studies to be greater than those of any other medical tests or devices currently in use.

In a method similar to today’s at-home DNA tests, the company’s cancer test can be carried out from a patient’s residence, screening institute or clinic. Patients don a designated mask and breathe into it for five minutes, after which the mask is sent to the company’s lab. There, the masks are inserted into sniffing ports, where several trained dogs quickly sniff each sample, pointing out samples that give off the cancer odor.

During the process, a system utilizing dynamic sensors, AI and algorithms analyzes the dogs’ actions and behavioral and physiological reactions. Following the scanning process, the company is able to detect and alert patients of the presence of cancer in their bodies within just a few days. The breath test can detect the presence of several cancers in one person’s body: lung, prostate, breast and colon cancer, with more types to follow in the future.

“The statistics speak for themselves,” said CEO and co-founder Ariel Ben Dayan said. “Nine out of 10 cancer patients who discover the disease early will survive. In contrast, unfortunately, nine out of 10 who discover it late will not survive. The ability to combine technology with a canine’s developed sense of smell, to create an accessible and accurate test that covers many different cancers, will significantly increase the number of people who get tested regularly. It will contribute to the saving of many lives.”

Small dog rests in an apartment in Tel Aviv. (credit: LOUIS FISHER/FLASH90)Small dog rests in an apartment in Tel Aviv. (credit: LOUIS FISHER/FLASH90)

Clinical study

“Early cancer detection and diagnosis saves lives.”

Pasha Romanovski, founding partner, Hanaco Ventures

The company is in the process of carrying out an extensive clinical study led by Ichilov Hospital’s Sourasky Medical Center in Tel Aviv and the Hadassah Medical Center in Jerusalem to prove the test’s efficacy. In the preliminary phase, SpotItEarly studied 700 verified samples, and showed that the test had very high sensitivity in detecting the presence of a variety of cancers, even in the early stages.

“Early cancer detection and diagnosis saves lives,” said Pasha Romanovski, founding partner of Hanaco Ventures, the fund behind SpotItEarly’s seed round. “The experienced team of SpotItEarly is developing a unique technology to solve a complex medical and economic problem. The company’s disruptive solution will offer a never before seen accuracy for early cancer detection in a quick and accessible way, and at a better cost.”